Mountain lion spotted on Kiowa County game cam with porcupine prey

Tim Hrenchir/Topeka Capital/Journal
Pratt Tribune
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism on Sunday posted on its Facebook page this trail camera photo showing an adult mountain lion carrying a recently killed porcupine. The photo was taken in Kiowa County.

State wildlife professionals wonder if a mountain lion caught on camera in late October in southwest Kansas has become the first of its species known to have come to Kansas and stayed. 

The state has had 21 confirmed mountain lion sightings since 2007, but all of those before last month appeared to be young adult cats who were on the move, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said Sunday on its Facebook page.

The most recent sighting came at 10 a.m. Oct. 24, when an adult mountain lion was photographed by a trail camera in Kiowa County in southwest Kansas, said Megan Mayhew, communications manager for KDWPT.

That agency on Sunday evening on its Facebook page posted a photo of the mountain lion, which carried a recently killed porcupine in its mouth. 

“This is cool!” that post said.

The post by early Monday afternoon had reached more than 300,000 Facebook users in less than 24 hours as a result of people sharing it and tagging others in comments, Mayhew said.

“We post content often and only once in a while does a post generate this much engagement and popularity,” she said.

Trail cameras are set up along trails and rigged to automatically capture images of any wildlife that pass by, said Matt Peek, an Emporia-based wildlife research biologist for the KDWPT.

He said the photo taken Oct. 24 by a trail camera put out by a Kiowa County resident was unique because it was taken in the same general vicinity where mountain lion sightings were reported two and a half months earlier.

The KDWPT said in Sunday’s Facebook post, “This photo follows three earlier confirmations (20 miles total apart) in the same area 2.5 months ago, which biologists assumed was the same cat headed south.”

Sunday’s Facebook post added: “This is the first time multiple photos of a cat have been confirmed in the same area within a time frame that could indicate the presence of a resident lion. However, it’s too early to tell because it could be a different lion coincidentally in the same area.”

Peek said he would be interested to see if trail cameras set up by residents and/or hunters in the area capture more images in coming weeks of the mountain lion photographed Oct. 24.

Mountain lion populations can be found in parts of Nebraska and Colorado but the species hasn’t been known to live in Kansas, he said.

Kansas has never had any confirmed reports of livestock being killed by mountain lions, Peek added.

He said that while residents in some cases have suspected that mountain lions killed their livestock, in each of those situations authorities either couldn’t make a determination or they concluded the livestock were killed by something else. 

While any mountain lion that tries to kill a porcupine is at risk of getting “a mouth full of quills,” Peek said, wildlife professionals from other states tell him some mountain lions become pretty adept at flipping porcupines over and getting to their underside.

The mountain lion shown in the photo shot Oct. 24 appears to be holding the recently killed porcupine by the chest, he said.

Porcupines are scattered throughout Kansas, Peek said.

“They're not real common anywhere, but they're most common in south-central and southwest Kansas,” he said.